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Friday, October 16, 2015

Movie review: Tom Hanks is a Cold War Atticus Finch in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Bridge of Spies★★★ ½ Now playing The childlike wonder that once accompanied the release of a Steven Spielberg film has been supplanted by an appreciation of the director’s finely honed craftsmanship, a maturation that parallels his preferred story lines. The now 68-year-old Spielberg still dabbles in the adventure flicks of his filmmaking yesteryear. But now they turn out like The Adventures of Tintin and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bridge of Spies is Spielberg’s stab at a Cold War spy film, filling another chronological gap in his growing oeuvre of historical dramas. The titular thoroughfare refers...

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Monday, October 12, 2015

The lost Colony: With the Raleigh art-house set to close, we reflect on its legacy as a hub for indie and retro film fans

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 at 1:43 PM

As several new theaters try to change the local moviegoing experience, one of the Triangle’s centers for independent film is about to shut its doors for good. Last week, the News & Observer reported that the Colony, which has operated in North Raleigh since 1994, will close in late December, as part of a plan to consolidate resources and fund improvements to parent company Ambassador Entertainment’s flagship, the Rialto, in Raleigh’s Five Points neighborhood. The Colony has a long history, opening as Six Forks Cinema in 1972. By the 1980s, it had become a second-run movie house. Then it was restored by...

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Movie review: Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in sci-fi master Ridley Scott's The Martian

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 1:48 PM

The Martian ★★★ ½ Now playing With its earnest discussions of orbital velocities and hexadecimal alphabets, director Ridley Scott’s The Martian is one nerdy-ass science fiction movie—in a good way. Matt Damon headlines as astronaut Mark Watney, a biologist on the Ares III manned mission to Mars. In a recognizable near future, NASA is properly funded and technology is sufficiently advanced to enable giant interplanetary space ships to make regular trips to Mars. Things quickly go sideways, however, when a rogue dust storm hits the Ares III landing party on the surface of the planet. Watney is separated, presumed dead...

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Movie review: Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro trade intergenerational life lessons in The Intern

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 2:29 PM

The Intern★★★ Now playing Nancy Meyers is a one-woman show. The writer-director of Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated is known for tightly controlling every aspect of her films, going so far as to personally fill each side table with vases of fluffy peonies and roses to evoke a sense of manicured luxury. Her consuming attention to detail, in both her characters and their gorgeously sculpted world, is inspiring if admittedly unrealistic. In her latest, it’s easy to see Meyers in young ingénue Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), a woman who is so committed to her company’s success that she takes...

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Movie review: Notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger immortalized, if not revealed, in Black Mass

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 10:19 AM

Black Mass★★★ Now playing Johnny Depp’s reptilian portrayal of James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass seems spawned from Method acting animal work. His translucent eyes and capacious brow connote a coiled copperhead, though his skittishness suggests one in the midst of shedding its skin. And like the wayfarer who stumbles upon an ornery ophidian, director Scott Cooper seems petrified of his star. He dares not detract focus from the danger on display, even if it means missing the forest for the tree snake. Whitey (“Call me Jimmy”) Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang ran roughshod over South Boston from the...

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Movie review: See '70s disaster-movie throwback Everest in the theater or not at all

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 2:54 PM

Everest ★★★ Opening Friday There are movies you want to see on the big screen if you're going to see them at all. Big spectacle movies just don't scale down that well to the screens and speakers of your living-room TV, computer screen or—god help us—mobile device. Everest is just that kind of movie. Based on a true story, it's an old-fashioned disaster drama with cutting-edge visual design. There are sights and sounds that will make your heart race and your stomach drop. Filmed in IMAX 3D, it's built from the ground up to be experienced on a really...

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Movie review: I see old people! M. Night Shyamalan does the twist in The Visit

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 11:17 AM

The Visit★★★ Now playing Fairly or not, when you go into an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you expect a twist. The director made his bones in Hollywood with 1999’s The Sixth Sense, which features one of the most cleverly obscured script flips in the history of scary movies. Shyamalan's plot-twist movies since then have usually been underwhelming (Signs and The Happening) and occasionally underrated (The Village). In his prior effort, the breathtakingly awful After Earth with Will Smith, Shyamalan pulled off his greatest trick by turning a $130 million budget into nothing at all. The director's new film, The Visit,...

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Movie review: A surprisingly slapdash adaptation of Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 12:03 PM

A Walk in the Woods★ ½  Now playing Travel writer Bill Bryson is bored. Semi-retired in a stately New England homestead, he longs for one more grand adventure. Bryson (Robert Redford) stumbles upon his chance when he takes a stroll and discovers that the Appalachian Trail runs right through his neighborhood. Inspired, he decides to hike the entire thing, despite his advanced age and inexperience with wilderness camping. Bryson partners with his old college pal, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), another restless 70-something. The two men had a falling out long ago—Bryson became a publishing success; Katz a drunken womanizer—and they...

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Movie review: Jesse Eisenberg is more Zuckerberg than Bourne in American Ultra

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:27 AM

American Ultra ★★ Now playing American Ultra tries to be a slacker romance, a dark comedy and an ultra-violent action thriller, but inelegant tonal shifts and slapdash production keep it from ably accomplishing any genre. Doing his time in the dog days of this summer movie season, Jesse Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, an unmotivated pothead living in frustrated obscurity in a fictional West Virginia podunk called Liman. Mike’s live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), wants him to move away, but he suffers from a psychological aversion to leaving town. So he toils at the local five and dime and spends his...

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Movie reviews in brief: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Straight Outta Compton

Posted By and on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 3:13 PM

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.★★★ ½ Now playing A lightly carbonated late-summer nightcap, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. reboots the 1960s TV series about Cold War espionage with winking style and period-adventure savvy. Henry Cavill (Superman) takes a chance by bringing an old-school, mannered acting approach to American secret agent Napoleon Solo. Get on his wavelength and it works just fine. Armie Hammer is less effective as the stalwart Russian agent, but Swedish actress Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) is bewitching as an East German defector with ambiguous allegiances. Director Guy Ritchie brings his usual visual playfulness and maintains a tone somewhere between...

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Friday, August 7, 2015

North Carolina actor Anthony Reynolds on his role in the Fantastic Four reboot

Posted By on Fri, Aug 7, 2015 at 4:00 PM

TV and film actor Anthony Reynolds, who grew up in Cary and now lives in Wilmington, is happily typecast as a stone-faced military dude. His forte, as he describes it, is “cowboys, cops and killers.” After a small role as a helicopter pilot in Iron Man 3, he expands his superhero-movie résumé in director Josh Trank’s reboot of 20th Century Fox’s struggling Fantastic Four franchise, which opens nationwide today. In the film, a quartet of gifted young people (including actors Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan) involved in a research program gain superpowers—and a whole lot of trouble from the...

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Movie review: Tom Cruise meets his match in the senseless but satisfying Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 12:13 PM

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation★★★ ½ Now playing Last year, in an LA Weekly article entitled “How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star,” Amy Nicholson contended that the action roles Cruise has taken in recent years are urgent attempts by an aging actor (he just turned 53) to reclaim his evaporating popularity, much of it built on skillfully chosen dramatic roles. Indeed, Cruise, a three-time Oscar nominee, hasn’t headlined a non-action film since 2008. With the Mission: Impossible franchise, he has produced a durable action serial in his own image: entertaining, bankable, polished, wacky,...

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Movie review: Not even a shockingly ripped Donnie Darko can punch up Southpaw's soapy script

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 11:50 AM

Southpaw★★ ½  Now playing Costarring Jake Gyllenhaal and his torso, Southpaw is a technically competent but largely uninteresting boxing movie with the soapiest script this side of the daytime Emmys. The movie's main appeal is watching Gyllenhaal muscle his way through it with a powerful physical performance. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Southpaw chronicles the fall of light heavyweight champ Billy Hope, a brawler who wins matches with stamina and rage. Billy has an inhuman tolerance for punishment—the more punches he takes, the stronger he gets. And Billy has taken a lot of punches in his life. Raised in...

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Movie review: Pixels pumps '80s video game nostalgia into an enjoyable throwaway farce

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 8:08 AM

Pixels★★★ Now playing Adam Sandler has spent so many years producing one abominable film after another (while still inexplicably turning tidy profits) that there’s an understandable impulse to assail anything with the faintest echoes of his previous affronts to cinema. So when grown men are called upon to employ their dormant video gaming skills to save Earth in Pixels, it automatically has to be an example of Sandler’s arrested development. When the geeks get the beautiful, younger girls, it’s another instance of male wish fulfillment. Or perhaps Pixels is just kooky, kitschy amusement along the lines of Ghostbusters, or even...

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Movie review: Amy Schumer's brilliant sketch comedy goes off the rails in Trainwreck

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 4:21 PM

Trainwreck ★★ Now playing Trainwreck, the much-anticipated collaboration between director Judd Apatow and writer/star Amy Schumer, is a new twist on an old scam. It's a bait-and-switch in which the viewer is promised one kind of film in the marketing blitz and then finds an inferior product in the theater. Schumer plays a version of her own comic persona, simply named Amy, who works as a magazine writer in New York City. The first several scenes establish her as a serial bed-hopper staunchly in favor of casual hookups. Her parents' disastrous marriage has convinced her that monogamy isn't just undesirable;...

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Movie review: Ant-Man clears the bar by lowering the stakes

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 12:26 PM

Ant-Man ★★★★ Now playing So you planted your lore in World War II and then hurled it outward, filling a universe with superheroes, aliens and gods. You steadily pumped up the stakes, from a man saving himself (Iron Man) to a man saving the world (Captain America: The First Avenger) to a team saving the world (The Avengers) to aliens saving the galaxy (Guardians of the Galaxy). What do you do when you can’t go bigger? The Marvel Cinematic Universe offers a clever answer with Ant-Man—think very small. In some ways, Ant-Man is a lot like Guardians. Both are affable...

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Movie review: Amy is an exceptional documentary you might not want to see

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 1:40 PM

Amy ★★★ Now playing In her short career, Amy Winehouse stunned the music world as a genius-level jazz vocalist and natural-born songwriter. She was an artist of massive wattage—a feisty North Londoner with a smart mouth and a fragile heart. In the devastating documentary Amy, director Asif Kapadia tells the story of Winehouse's tilt-a-whirl life and sudden, tragic death. The approach is simple and direct. Voiceover interviews with friends and family are fused with archival images, performance footage and handheld video. Every combination of sound and picture is composed to bring us viscerally into Winehouse’s world. Kapadia and his producers...

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Movie review: Minions proves that Despicable Me's charming little villains work best in small doses

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 11:27 AM

Minions★ ½ Now playing Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “minion” as “a servile dependent, follower, or underling.” In the case of Minions, a prequel and spin-off of the popular Despicable Me franchise, the overlord isn’t über-baddy Felonius Gru. It’s the money-changing moviemakers mainlining the yellow pill-shaped playthings into the adrenal glands of youngsters—and the wallets of their parents. Minions isn’t irredeemable, although it toes the line. It’s just lazy—a mashup of moving colors and gibberish that lacks wit or narrative purpose. Like lemmings, the titular anthropomorphic plush toys fall off a creative cliff. In this origin story, the Minions emerge from the...

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Movie review: Saint Laurent, a biopic of the French designer, is a visual feast of excess and fashion

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2015 at 1:20 PM

Saint Laurent★★ ½ Now playing There is plenty to appreciate about director Bertrand Bonello’s flamboyant, kaleidoscopic fever dream of a biopic of Yves Saint Laurent (played by lookalike Gaspard Ulliel). It’s a mesmerizing depiction of the esteemed French designer’s agonized grasp for all-consuming beauty and creative genius, and it plays out like a tragic love story. The tortured-artist theme may not be fresh, but there is something compelling about Bonello’s ultra-vivid style. Manicured models, swaths of rich textiles and the glittery dust of disco nights are a visual feast of materialistic excess and great fashion. But for history buffs, or anyone...

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Movie review: Love & Mercy surfs the troubled waters of Beach Boys maestro Brian Wilson

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2015 at 10:16 AM

Love & Mercy★★★ Now playing Bill Pohlad’s biopic of Brian Wilson drops two talented actors into the enigmatic Beach Boys leader's troubled waters, but even their combined efforts can get only so deep. In Love & Mercy, Paul Dano (convincingly doughy, bright-eyed and vulnerable) plays Wilson in the ’60s, during the creation of the revolutionary album Pet Sounds and single “Good Vibrations," as he steers his reluctant bandmates away from catchy songs about surfing, toward Beatles-challenging pop music of symphonic intricacy. He is at the top of his talents and success but already shows signs of trouble: panic attacks, withdrawal from touring...

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Movie review: Layers of metafiction can't conceal Gemma Bovery's lightweight core

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 11:41 AM

Gemma Bovery★★ ½  Now playing Martin Joubert is profoundly bored. A humble baker in a small Normandy town, he has little to occupy his days. His wife doesn't like him much and his teenage son has disappeared into hoodies and headphones. Each day, Martin's work is done by dawn. All he has is his books. So when an exotic English couple (from London!) moves into the house across the street, Martin gets interested. That interest becomes obsession when he realizes that his new neighbors are, in some cosmic crossover, living out the plot of his favorite work of literature—Madame Bovary, the...

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Movie review: Melissa McCarthy powers the action spoof Spy

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Spy ★★★ Now playing When she's on her game, Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest people on the planet. A seasoned improv veteran, her extemporaneous comedy instincts are off the charts—check out the gag reel from Bridesmaids for instant evidence. But so far, McCarthy's headlining roles in feature films haven't played out so great. Her buddy-cop adventure The Heat, with Sandra Bullock, felt like a missed opportunity. And last year's anti-comedy Tammy was a total mess. So I'm pleased to report that the new comedy Spy finally provides McCarthy with a pitch she can hit. Written and directed by Bridesmaids conspirator...

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Queue: Netflix picks for sci-fi haters

Posted By on Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 12:17 PM

Perhaps you're familiar with this dilemma: There's a certain genre of movie that you adore and your significant other hates. Science fiction, say. When it comes to movie night at home, this becomes an issue. You explain to your partner—slowly, gently, as to a child—the many fine qualities of the genre, its rich history, and the subtle symbolic threads that can be teased out of the best films. But your passionate advocacy fails to elicit an accord, and you end up watching yet another goddamn Woody Allen movie. Friends, I am here to help. Below are five excellent science fiction...

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Movie review: The boys are back in Entourage

Posted By on Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 10:59 AM

Entourage ★★★ Opens Friday When movies are made from a book or TV show, fans of the source material often approach the film with trepidation. Breathe easy if you were a fan of the HBO series Entourage. The big-screen version is just the show writ large. Of course, that also means it has the same flaws as the series. Chief among them is that women are merely objects to pursue or, in some cases, flee. Even the ones whose characters are fleshed out beyond “big boobs, tight ass” are defined by relationship issues—will Sloan and Eric manage to coexist while...

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Movie review: Iris Apfel is fascinating, but Albert Maysles' Iris is a mixed bag

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 2:32 PM

Iris ★★★ Now playing The late Albert Maysles’ documentary Iris, which is getting a local theatrical release after screening at Full Frame, captures the daily life of the eponymous Iris Apfel as she goes about her business as an international style icon. Apfel, an interior designer, founded the rare-textile company Old World Weavers before becoming a fashion darling in her 80s. Iconic for her huge glasses, loud outfits and shock of lavender-tinted white hair, Apfel is a fascinating human, but Iris is a mixed bag. At 90, Apfel is absolutely charming in her salty New York bluntness, as she dispenses...

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